CAMAS VALLEY — Camas Valley’s boys basketball team came out of the locker room in Pacific High School-purple warm-up shirts for Tuesday’s game against the Pacific Pirates.

The shirts had Steven White’s No. 22 emblazoned on the back and ‘Fight for our Champion’ on the front, in honor of the Pacific High School senior who was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the beginning of the basketball season.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Pacific boys basketball coach Ben Stallard said about the support. “We’re overwhelmed by the support from all over the state. It really shows that it’s bigger than the game.”

It’s the latest example of how numerous teams, including many from Douglas County, have been stepping up to help.

The Camas Valley community gave Stallard $1,500 to help pay for White’s medical care. When the total was announced during Tuesday’s game, several Pacific High School fans in attendance got up to say “thank you” to the Camas Valley fans.

“When I heard about {White}, it definitely put things in perspective,” Glendale coach Tom Ford said. “It just shows you how insignificant basketball is in life.”

Camas Valley boys basketball coach Chris Sexton said: “We played Gold Beach on a Thursday night and that’s when I heard that Steven had cancer.”

The following day, Camas Valley’s basketball team had its Christmas party and, according to Sexton, White was the main topic of conversation.

When Sexton relayed the story to football coach Eli Wolfe, they started looking at what the community could do to help. Abby’s Legendary Pizza, Dutch Bros. and B&D Meats donated items for the fundraiser at Wolfe’s request.

North Douglas fans helped out at a Camas Valley fundraiser on Jan. 22, and New Hope Christian donated to the school’s fundraiser on Jan. 4.

As soon as Sexton mentioned holding a fundraiser to his team, the players were all in. During the game, money was raised for White, but it was what happened after the game that made a big impact on Sexton.

“I had three different players walk up to me and give me $20 and say, ‘Make sure this goes to Steven,’” Sexton said. “It’s small-town basketball. Small schools stick together.”

Camas Valley, Glendale, Riddle, New Hope Christian and Pacific all play in the Skyline League South division and the teams face each other twice, once at home and once away. Skyline League North teams — Days Creek, North Douglas, Elkton, Yoncalla and Umpqua Valley Christian— go up against Pacific High School once during the regular season.

“This is the lifeblood of small towns,” Stallard said. “The whole town comes together to support the teams.”

At Yoncalla, the leadership class heard about White’s illness after winter break and started planning a fundraiser for its Jan. 18 game.

Yoncalla High School’s Brett Andry, Future Business Leaders of America adviser, leadership and social studies teacher, took charge of the event.

“I brought it up to the leadership class to gauge their interest, and they were incredibly receptive,” Andry said. “They were really excited about an opportunity to help a 17-year-old senior who plays basketball. The majority of my leadership class are people who play basketball or other sports.”

The leadership classes created fundraising buckets that included White’s story. Students also worked on a video presentation about White, which included a little bit of background information and added well wishes at the end. The video presentation left many wiping away the tears after it was shown, Andry said.

“Our stands were essentially full. People were willing and able to come in and support Steven,” Andry said. “We counted up $878.90 that night, and that’s an easy testament of how supportive the Yoncalla community is to support someone who lives 2.5 hours away from us. It’s really humbling.”

The winner of the 50/50 raffle donated the funds back to White and his family, and local business owner Carl Van Loon donated 2-liter sodas as prizes for a 3-point shooting contest.

Leadership students bought a basketball and signed it to give to White, who was able to make it to the game despite being in the middle of chemotherapy. White sat with his team on the bench during the boys’ game.

“We spent two weeks preparing. Those types of activities make people respective,” Andry said. Most of all the class wanted to show White that they stand beside him, that they have his back.

“I think the fact that you’re seeing all these different programs hosting fundraisers is not just a testament to Steven, but to the Pacific community,” Andry said. “Ben Stallard is the epitome of what a high school coach should be, an educator, life coach and basketball coach. He cares about his kids and it’s more than basketball for him. We try to teach life lessons through basketball.”

White wasn’t at Tuesday’s game in Camas Valley, but according to Stallard, he’s in good spirits and doing well.

Camas Valley and Pacific came into Tuesday’s game fighting for second place.

“It’s us or them,” Sexton said, “but our guys were able to put that aside and focus on what’s important and take time out to help a family out.

“It makes me really proud to coach these guys and see the kind of young men that they are.”

Sports reporter Sanne Godfrey can be reached at 541-957-4203 or via email at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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Sports Reporter

Sanne Godfrey is the education reporter for The News-Review.

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